Ethics Office: We ‘Lost Contact’ With Trump Team Over Conflicts Of Interest

AP

Donald Trump’s transition team sometimes stonewalled the federal office responsible for overseeing ethics and conflicts of interest after he won the White House, according to emails published Saturday by CNBC.

“We seem to have lost contact with the Trump-Pence transition since the election,” Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. emailed Trump aides in November, according to CNBC.

The emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that OGE officials pushed the President-elect to consult with them on his plans for the Trump Organization and to allow them to review the financial information for his cabinet picks before publicly announcing them.

Failure to do so could create “embarrassment for the President-elect,” Shaub wrote.

Trump has said he plans to create a “blind trust” in which his two adult sons assume control of the Trump Organization, but has announced no plans to divest or sell off the company’s assets. As Shaub wrote in one email, the OGE only considers a trust blind if its underlying assets have “been sold off” and the office plays a key role in determining whether potential trustees can be considered independent.

CNBC reported that Trump’s potential divestment from his real estate company rarely arose in the material received through the FOIA request. Trump transition officials did provide financial information and email responses to many of the OGE’s requests, according to CNBC.

The President-elect is expected to address plans for the Trump Organization at a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday, and hearings for his cabinet picks will begin Tuesday.

Shaub warned in an email to a Trump aide that some of those individuals “run the risk of having inadvertently violated” a federal conflicts of interest law because they did not receive proper ethics guidance ahead of time.

The OGE not yet completed ethics vetting for some of Trump’s nominees, citing the crowded confirmation hearing schedule laid out by Senate Republicans.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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